Nemo Me Impugn Lacessitt (No One Impugns — or Attacks — Me With Liberty)
~Royal Dynasty of Scotland & Order of the Thistle (To Name Just a Few)

As expected, things have just gone totally south, no pun intended. Very worrisome with both sloppy and aggressive behavior and tirades. Where unmitigated, inauspicious chaos and dysfunction reigns.

Already, the now self-anointed Emperor Donald has threatened to send troops to Mexico; vainly tried to veto the Patient Protection & Affordable Health Care Act (passed by both the House and the Senate after public comments) which provides healthcare access to over 18 million women, men, children and the poor; said on national television that Mexico & Iran had serious problems — perhaps he should look in the mirror as the U.S. has real issues. But, you already know he does gaze intently at his mirrors in his robe with his hormoned red hair and tanned, powdered face.

Then, he degraded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, an enduring ally of the states, and in a hissy fit as is his wont, promptly chose fisticuffs to settle whatever differences they had (c’mon man) and terminated the telephone conversation; he overtly lied to the People and press about the size of his inauguration crowd; defying Court orders, he threatened to send federal troops to Chicago and also was planning to defund the entire state of California — by many accounts, the sixth largest economy of the world; this makes no mention of the cast of characters that he has proposed to fill his cabinet, many of whom detest the office/agency/departments (or even could not name) that they intend to inhabit.

During that very same time, the Donald signed some form of executive order, without any other opinions offered, that prohibits the entry of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations (none who has knuckled under to a “Trump property or inane golf course”) each refugee was thoroughly and meticulously vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the State Department, national intelligence agencies all of which independently check each and every refugees’ biometric data against security databases. Even green card holders, given permanent United States residency and pure voting rights in local and state elections, were first hit by the ban, on national security grounds.

Naturally, there have been an onslaught of briefs filed against Trump’s actions: “(n)ot only ill-conceived but poorly explained”…from a brief filed by many previous National Security Advisors; (his actions also) “violate(s) immigration laws and the U.S. Constitution”…and “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to hire new employees outside the United States…” from an amicus curiae brief filed by quite a few tech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, et al.

The Tweeter-in-chief’s actions are morally repugnant and patently illegal. A blanket immigration prohibition, not only has founders of the Constitution rolling in their proverbial graves, it is flat discriminatory based upon Congress’ half-century refusal to bar refugees from inclusion based upon “national origin.” Remember such people, Emperor Donald, as the Italians, Irish, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Mesoamericans, Indians, Cubans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans and their kith and kin?

Trump attempts to wiggle out of the conundrum by invoking some obscure 1952 congressional action, still asserting that he has some form of “discriminatory power,” whatever that means, all despite his claims of the “one of the highest IQ’s” ever on earth. Do you not distrust whomever bombastically brags about just how smart they are? Embarrassing and quite often doubtful.

By the way, where are your tax returns, IQ tests and results, your P&L statements, and what do you really read (besides paragraphistical snippets)? An elementary to middle school whining president is what we get as our fearless leader? Now, we can all see how you became so shameful to your parents that they shipped you up the river to military school.

Not only does his reasoning run afoul of the due process and equal protection clauses (yes, Donald, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments, respectively) but also the 1st Amendment’s ban on the government’s establishment of religion. Remember, that Donald quoted his fervent protection of the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution before Republican Senators — a clause that simply establishes an electoral college. Trump does not know nor care about his constitutional precepts. Has he even heard of etiquette or comity? Does he not know about impugning the qualifications of jurists and judicial independence? Does he have no knowledge of our system of checks and balances? A president who has little respect for the rule of law? Apparently not, on all counts.

By the way, Mr. Trump and his father, Fred Trump, and Trump Properties were accused of massive bias by the Justice Department and New York City Commission on Civil Rights for violating the Civil Rights Act. By both actions and words, he has displayed a lengthy history of bigotry, misogyny and prejudice.

An enfant sauvage, an orange, sloppy, bullying, feral child at the helm.  His only response has apparently, of course, been a crude, puerile, bunkered tweet that personally denigrates and insults a “so-called” federal judge who was appointed by GW. Speaking of GW (&Nixon), the Donald is an admix of incompetence and arrogance — but worse. It is not about being “a bad person” it concerns ineptitude. What really does Trump even knows, thinks or grasps, and please halt thy incessant during or after-hours unpresidential tweets.

So far his administration has been a soap opera, or more properly put in Trump’s words, a very sad reality TV show.

Oh well, on to more soothing grub…the word for “pot pie” made it into our lexicon somewhere around 1792.

RABBIT “POT” PIE

Preheat oven to 375 F

Pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water, mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Equally divide and form into two evenly sized thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove from the fridge. If the dough is too firm to roll, allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of a disk of flour and roll into a round about 1/8″ thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough, and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a pie plate easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second dough disk, again about 1/8″ thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready for further use.

Béchamel
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 C whole milk, slightly simmered

1/4 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 T fennel seeds,seared and finely ground
2 thyme sprigs
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and white pepper

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes to make a blond roux. Remove the roux from the heat, pour in the warmed milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and simmer gently, whisking often for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Filling
1 C red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 C parsnips, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C carrots, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C celery, cut 1/2″ diagonally
1 small leek, cleaned and finely diced
1/2 C crimini mushrooms, cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 – 3 C roasted rabbit meat, shredded
1/2 C all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten (for wash)

Put the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms and onions in a large saucepan with water to cover with bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a chinois, drain the vegetables, discard the bay and thyme, and spread on an edged baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Strew the simmered vegetables, peas, sauteed mushrooms and rabbit over the bottom of the pie shell. Then, sprinkle with flour. Season again with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the béchamel over the rabbit and vegetables.

Moisten the pie shell rim with some of the beaten egg. Carefully cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away any excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top dough with egg and cut three small vents in the center of the top dough with the tip of a paring knife.

Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 50 minutes or more. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then serve.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
~Albert Einstein

So, tomorrow is Pi Day which will not happen again until 2115 — and the date also just so coincides with the birthday of Albert himself. Pi (the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet) represents a mathematical constant, namely the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter or approximately 3.14159265 (3.14 for short). The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge, measuring straight through the center point, and the circumference is the distance around the circle. By measuring circular objects over time, it has always turned out that the distance around a circle is a tad more than 3x the width.

Ergo: pi equals the circumference divided by the diameter (π = c/d). Conversely, the circumference is equal to pi times the diameter (c = πd).

Being a constant number, pi applies to circles and spheres of any size. To Pi aficionados, this number has even been calculated to over a trillion digits beyond the decimal point, and this irrational number happens to continue infinitely without settling into a repeating pattern.

So, join this zany worldwide celebration of all mathematical enigmas by creating and relishing something round.

BLUEBERRY PIE (PI)

Dough (Pâte Fine Sucrée)
2 egg yolks
6 T ice water

2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
3 T granulated white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1″ bits

Filling
4 C fresh, plump blueberries
1/2 C granulated white sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
2 gratings fresh nutmeg
Small dash, vanilla extract
2 T cornstarch
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T lemon zest

Unsalted butter bits, chilled and cut into 1″ pieces

Egg Wash
1 fresh local egg, beaten with 1 T water

Gently whisk the yolk with the water until it is well blended.

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-15 seconds. Pour water and yolk mixture through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Knead the dough for less than one minute and your work surface and then gather into a ball.

(Alternatively — place the flour, salt, and sugar in a round bowl and combine. Add the butter and work with your hands, mashing it through your fingers to have everything blend together. It will form into small lumps or a cornmeal like consistency after 1 or 2 minutes. Pour the yolk mixture into the round bowl and mix vigorously with your fingers until all the ingredients are assembled together into a round ball.)

Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a thick round disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After chilling, unwrap and place one dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour too. Roll the pastry with light pressure, from the center out. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, add some flour and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll from the center of the pastry outwards. Turn the dough over once or twice during the rolling process until it is about 11″ in diameter and less than 1/4″ thick. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9″ pie pan by draping it over the rolling pin, then moving it onto the plate and unrolling it. Once in the plate, press the dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2″ all around the dish, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Then, remove the second dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 12″ circle (also think about a lattice top). Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

In a small round bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest. Place the blueberries in a large round bowl. Add the mixture to the blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Remove the crusts from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes so they can become pliable. Carefully pour the blueberry filling into the chilled bottom pie crust. Strew the butter pieces over the blueberry filling. Moisten the edges of the pie shell with a little water and then place the top crust over the blueberries. Tuck any excess pastry under the bottom crust and then crimp or flute the edges using your fingers. Brush the top (or lattice) with the egg wash and cut slits from the center of the pie out towards the edge of the pie to allow steam to escape. You may wish to cover edge with 2″ strip of foil to prevent excessive browning. Cover the circular pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while the oven is preheated.

Preheat the oven to 425 F

Place an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or sheet pan on the rack while it preheats.

Set the round pie on the baking stone or sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil about 2/3 of the way down. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake the pie for about 35-45 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the juices are bubbly and thick. If the edges of the pie are browning too much during baking, cover with foil.

Remove the round blueberry pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 2 or so hours before slicing. Resist cutting the pie immediately and then serve warm or at room temperature with round globes of vanilla ice cream.

Humble Pot Pie

January 17, 2012

Courtship consists in a number of quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as not to be understood.
~Laurence Sterne

Pot pies seem reminiscent of a graceful courtship—first ogling, then the primal eye connect, doted upon, coddled, kneaded some, cozied, with disparate souls melded together, finally forming a union, ever mingling with ambrosial aromas and flavors. An almost silent, sapid tango.

Recently, home spun and hearty pot pies have gone somewhat underground in America’s home kitchens. A revival is in the making though. Nearly timeless, savory meat pastries have endured civilizations, castes, and continents. With slightly differing carriages, there are French (pâté en croûtes), English (meat pies), Spanish (empanadas), Chinese (jiaozi), Greek (kreatopitas), Italian (tortas), Slavic (böreks), Polish (pierogi), Russian (belyashi), Canadian (tourtières), Latin American (empanadas), Vietnamese (bánh patê sô) Indian (samosa), middle Eastern (fatayer), and so on. Each deserve our ardor.

Early English pies (“coffyns”) were savory meat pies with tall, slightly beveled pastries and sealed floors and lids. The bottom crust served as the pan, so it was rather tough and inedible. These pastries were often made several inches thick to withstand the rigors of baking.

The English word “pie” was later derived from the cagey magpie, a keenly sociable bird that forages for and collects sundry objects which adorn and bind together their bulky mud or manure nests. Medieval pies were similarly bowl-shaped, holding an array of fillings, whether savor or sweet and often both meats and fruits.

“Pot” took a more circuitous route—from late Old English pott and Old French pot, both from a general Low Germanic and Romanic word from the vulgar Latin pottus, of uncertain origin, said to be vaguely connected to potus “drinking cup.” Pot pie had more specific origins: American 1823. (All not to be confused with cannabis sativa or pot which is probably a shortened form of Mexican Spanish potiguaya or “marijuana leaves.”)

CHICKEN POT PIE

Preheat oven to 375 F

Pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T lard or shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water, mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Equally divide and form into two evenly sized thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove from the fridge. If the dough is too firm to roll, allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of a disk of flour and roll into a round about 1/8″ thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough, and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 9″ pie plate easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second dough disk to a 12″ round, again about 1/8″ thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready for further use.

Béchamel
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 C whole milk, slightly simmered

1/4 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and white pepper

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes to make a blond roux. Remove the roux from the heat, pour in the warmed milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and simmer gently, whisking often for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Filling
1 C red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 C parsnips, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C carrots, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C celery, cut 1/2″ diagonally
12 white pearl onions
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 C crimini mushrooms, cut into thirds
1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 C roasted dark chicken meat, shredded

2 eggs, beaten

Put the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery and onions in a large saucepan with water to cover with bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a chinois, drain the vegetables, discard the bay and thyme, cut the onions in half and spread on an edged baking sheet. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Strew the simmered vegetables, peas, mushrooms and chicken over the bottom of the pie shell. Season again with salt and pepper. Pour the béchamel over the chicken and vegetables. Moisten the pie shell rim with some of the beaten egg. Carefully cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away any excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut three small vents in the center of the top dough with the tip of a paring knife.

Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 50 minutes or more. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then serve.

Pourboire: consider lamb shoulder or shredded pork butt.

An icon born of error.

Filial fare. Word has it that two sisters, Caroline (b. 1847) and Stéphanie Tatin (b. 1838), created this simple, to die for, Belle Époque tarte. They lived in Lamotte-Beuvron, a small rural town in the Loire Valley where they managed l’Hôtel Tatin. Lamotte-Beuvron is located in the forested hunting region known as the Sologne, about 100 miles from Paris.

The elder sister, Stéphanie a/k/a Fanny, manned the hotel kitchen…an exquisite cook but not the brightest bulb in the room. Locals, such as Claude Monet, made a point to spend Sunday afternoons savoring long, leisurely lunches there.

Stéphanie’s specialty was a luscious apple tarte, served ever so crusty and caramelized. One midday, while mired in the weeds during the hectic hunting season, Stéphanie started to make her usual apple tarte but in haste left the apples cooking in butter and sugar, forgetting to line the pan with crust. Time not being her ally, she decided not to begin the tarte anew. So, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry on top of the apples, and finished the tarte in the oven with the pastry and apples reversed. She then inverted the pan and served up the new fangled tarte renversée to guests who, to her surprise, purred nothing but formidables. Soon, it became a signature house dish and was later dubbed la tarte des demoiselles Tatin.

The tarte did not rise to gastronomic prominence until the epicure Curnonsky included it in a volume of La France Gastronomique dedicated to l’Orléannais, the region around Orléans that encompasses Lamotte-Beuvron. In the late 1930s, the rustic tarte’s celebrity rose to new heights when it appeared on the menu of Maxim’s, the famed Parisian restaurant.

Now, a global culinary darling: The tarte of two unmarried women named Tatin, or Tarte Tatin.

LA TARTE TATIN

Pastry Dough (Pâte Brisée Fine)
1 C all purpose flour
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small bits
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 t granulated sugar
1/3 C+ ice water

Briefly mix the flour, butter, salt and sugar in a bowl with your fingers. The pieces of butter should still be visible. Add the water, roll the mixture into a ball and knead for a minute or so. Do not overknead—the dough should have body and be pliable, but not too elastic and dry. Wrap well in plastic and let dough rest in refrigerator for one hour before rolling.

Tarte
5 to 6 Golden Delicious apples, quartered, cored and peeled
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice on 1 lemon
1 1/2 C sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
6 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

Pastry dough

Preheat oven to 425 F

Cut the apple quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar. Allow to steep until they exude their juices, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Melt the butter in a 10″ heavy-high-rimmed-non-stick-oven-proof pan over moderately high heat. Blend in the vanilla bean and remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup turns a caramel hue. It will smooth out later, when the apples juices dissolve the sugar.

Remove from heat and arrange a layer of apple slices nicely in the bottom of the pan. Flare the apples slices in closely packed circles around the circumference of the pan, filling in the middle. Add enough apples to heap up 1″ higher than the rim of the pan. They sink down as they cook.

Set the pan again over moderately high heat, pressing the apples down with a wooden spatula as they soften. Draw the accumulated juices over the apples with a bulb baster. When the apples begin to soften, cover the pan and continue cooking 10-15 minutes, checking and basting frequently until the juices are thick and syrupy. Remove from heat.

Roll the chilled dough to 1/8″ thick and a circle with a diameter 1″ larger than the top of the pan. Fold the dough in half, then in quarters and center over the apples. Then, unfold the dough over the apples. Press the edges of the dough down between the apples and the inside of the pan. Cut a few steam escape holes from around the center of the dough.

Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and tilt the pan. If the juices are runny rather than a thick syrup, boil down rapidly on top on the stove, but not to the point that the apples stick to the pan.

Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pastry and carefully flip the platter and the pan over, allowing the tart to fall gently out of the pan.

Serve warm, with whipped cream, ice cream or sweetened mascarpone.

Pourboire: Tarte Tatin can be made with other fruits, such as pears or quince. As you may imagine, savory versions exist too. A medley of wild mushrooms and herbs?

To MLK — Pecan Pie

January 18, 2010

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.
~Bertrand Russell

Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A minister whose nonviolent social activism exposed white American hypocrisy and kindled the way for the civil rights movement. A member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He conferred with President John Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon Johnson. He rubbed elbows with the powerful and walked with the common man. He was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times. Awarded five honorary degrees, he was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963. At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now to the darker side. Hoping to prove the Reverend was under the influence of subversives, Communists and other sources of obsessive paranoia, the FBI kept the civil rights leader under constant surveillance. The almost fanatical zeal with which the agency pursued King is disclosed in a paper trail of tens of thousands of FBI memos which detailed concerted efforts to derail King’s efforts in the civil rights movement.

The Bureau even convened a meeting of department heads to “explore how best to carry on our investigation to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the Bureau,” which included “a complete analysis of the avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader.”

In 1963, a month before the March on Washington, the megalomaniacal, capricioius FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover filed a request with then Attorney General Robert Kennedy to tap King’s and his associates’ phones and to bug their homes and offices. Oh, how that whitest of white Hoover destested King. Sadly, Kennedy consented to the technical surveillance, granting the FBI permission to break into King’s office and home to install the bugs, as long as agents recognized the “delicacy of this particular matter” and did not get caught installing them. All ordered with a voyeuristic proviso — Kennedy was to be personally informed of any pertinent findings. Speaking of, was Hoover really a cross-dresser or was that unsubstantiated rumor about the king of rumormongers with his “secret files” on potentates? And as a man that made it his business to blackmail homosexuals, who was this closeted lifelong partner of Hoover’s, agent Clyde “The Glide” Tolson?

Martin Luther King was also a man who adored pie, particularly pecan. As do I. Celebrate his sadly shortened life with a slice.

PECAN PIE

Pastry (Pâte Fine Sucrée)
2 egg yolks
6 T ice water

2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
3 T granulated white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1″ bits

Filling
1 C dark brown sugar
2/3 C light corn syrup
1 T rum or bourbon
4 T unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 t sea salt
2 C pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Pastry:
Gently whisk the yolk with the water until it is well blended.

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-15 seconds. Pour water and yolk mixture through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Knead the dough for less than one minute and your work surface and then gather into a ball.

(Alternatively, place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl and combine. Add the butter and work with your hands, mashing it through your fingers to have everything blend together. It will form into small lumps or a cornmeal like consistency after 1 or 2 minutes. Pour the yolk mixture into the bowl and mix vigorously with your fingers until all the ingredients are assembled together into a ball.)

Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a thick disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After chilling, unwrap and place one dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour too. Roll the pastry with light pressure, from the center out. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, add some flour and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll from the center of the pastry outwards. Turn the dough over once or twice during the rolling process until it is about 11″ in diameter and less than 1/4″ thick. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9″ pie pan by draping it over the rolling pin, then moving it onto the plate and unrolling it. Once in the plate, press the dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2″ all around the dish, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan.

Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.

Filling:
In a large saucepan, heat the brown sugar, syrup, rum, and butter until boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool until tepid. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. When the boiled syrup has cooled, beat in the eggs, salt, and cream.

Remove the chilled pastry crust from the refrigerator and evenly distribute the chopped pecans over the bottom of the crust. Then pour the filling evenly over the nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie will come out clean, about 50 minutes. If you find the edges of the pie crust are over browning during baking, cover with foil. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice or whipping cream.

Yes, life has many onions.
~Skip Coryell

While tartes aux oignons are considered a specialty of the formerly embattled northeast border region of Alsace, they are found throughout the country — so it is a recipe that bodes well in any département.

Passed back and forth between tribes, royalty, governments and churches over centuries, Alsace-Lorraine (Ger: Elsass-Lothringen) eventually evolved into a region shaped by both French and German cultures. Space does not permit me to adequately recount its strife-ridden, treaty-rent past. Suffice it to say despite its beauty Alsace-Lorraine was partially born of a dolorous recipe with unsavory ingredients: men, liberally seasoned with lands, boundaries, intolerance, suppression and religion. Sound familiar?

Even an aperçu of modern times reflects these geo-political vacillations. Following the Franco-Prussian War, the area was annexed by the German Empire in 1871 via the Treaty of Frankfurt and became a Reichsland. At the conclusion of World War I, the province reverted to France under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Nazi Germany then again occupied the territory during World War II, beginning in 1940, but the end of the war placed Alsace-Lorraine back in French hands where it has remained since.  With each war, inhabitants of this fair land were made to overhaul their allegiances, citizenship, language, and the like to appease the conquering forces.

In more recent history, efforts have been made to embrace Alsace-Lorraine’s duel Gaullic and Germanic personalities. The cuisine of both cultures have retained their individual identities yet have also remained intertwined — bäeckeofe, foie gras, sauerkraut (choucroute), quiche lorraine, sausages, smoked pork, and so on, all cohabitate peacefully.

ONION TART (TARTE AUX OIGNONS)

1 recipe pâte brisée*

3 slices bacon or pancetta
2 C yellow onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/4 C chives, chopped
Pinch of dried thyme

3 large organic, free range eggs
2-3 C heavy cream
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the pâte brisée on a floured board, and line a 9” removable-bottom tart shell with it. Flute the edge of the pastry. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Cut the bacon into lardons and fry in a heavy skillet until crispy brown. Set aside and drain on paper towels.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onions, stirring regularly, until they are tender and just beginning to caramelize. Stir in the bacon, chives and thyme until well mixed. Remove the skillet from the heat.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and cream together. Add a pinch or two of salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Add this to the onions, stirring to combine.

Pour the onion and egg mixture into the pastry shell. Bake tart for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the custard is firm. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature.

*Pâte Brisée

1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T lard or shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Makes for rich but delicate fare when paired with a simple green salad, a crusty baguette, and a crisp Alsatian white or Provençal rosé